Kenyan Pilau

East African Spiced Rice

Kenyan pilau is an easy, one-pot African rice dish bursting with flavour. In our vegan take, we simmered high-fibre brown rice in a rich broth with fresh tomatoes, ginger, chillies, and plenty of fragrant spices!


Nutrition per serving
Net Carbs54.5 g19.8%
of which Sugars4 g4.5%
Fibers6.7 g24%
Fats10 g15.4%
of which Saturates1.4 g6.8%
of which Omega 31.1 g102.3%
Proteins7.6 g16.5%
Calcium38 mg3.8%
Vitamin A33 mcg4.7%
Vitamin C17 mg23.3%
Iron1.9 mg13%
Potassium388 mg11.1%
Sodium262 mg11.4%
Cholesterol0 mg0%
Kcal338 16.9%
Macro split
  • net carbs 69%
  • sugars 5%
  • fats 13%
  • saturates 2%
  • proteins 10%
  • fibers 9%
*RDA based on a 2000 kcal diet;
**Nutritional data sources: USDA, food labels.
338 per serving

Kenyan pilau is a delicious spice-flavoured rice dish from East Africa. And today, we'll show you how to prepare this recipe in a quick and healthy way!

Also known as pilaf or pilav, pilau consists of rice simmered in a well-seasoned broth, sometimes with added meat and vegetables.

This simple yet intensely fragrant rice is a popular dish in many countries, each preparing it with its own distinctive style.

In the Kenyan version, pilau often uses cuts of meat like beef, chicken, or goat, which are also used to prepare the cooking stock.

Kenyan pilau seasoning includes a base of sauteed garlic, ginger, chillies, and chopped fresh tomatoes, plus warming spices like cinnamon, cardamom, clove, and cumin.

We made a few changes to the classic recipe, like replacing refined canola oil with minimally processed extra virgin olive oil.

We also swapped the classic white rice with wholegrain brown rice, which is higher in fibre, proteins, and minerals.

Finally, our Kenyan pilau recipe has no beef in it, so you won't have to spend time preparing the meat stock, and you'll keep the saturated fats low.

If you like, you can add a can of beans or lentils to the pilau rice for a source of protein. You'll find more pairing ideas below!

And, after this recipe, why not try the famous Nigerian jollof rice or discover our Thai green bean pilaf?

Or check out our other delicious African recipes like this Ghanaian spinach stew and healthy plantain chips!


Measuring System
Long-Grain Brown Rice240 g
Extra Virgin Olive Oil2 tbsp
Red Onion1
Garlic Cloves2
Fresh Ginger Root (grated)1 tbsp
Mild Red Chillies (serrano)4
Ground Cumin2 tsp
Ground Cloves1/4 tsp
Ground Cardamom1/2 tsp
Ground Cinnamon1/2 tsp
Cracked Black Pepper1/2 tsp
Fresh Tomatoes2
Vegetable Stock700 mL
Chopped Parsley/Coriander2 tbsp

Step 1

Rinse the rice and leave it to soak in a bowl of cold water for 20-30 minutes so it'll cook faster and more evenly.

In the meantime, heat the oil in a pan and add thinly chopped red onions.

Sizzle the onions for 8-10 minutes until soft and caramelised.

chopped red onions sauteed in a pan

Step 2

Add minced garlic, grated ginger root, and finely chopped red chillies and stir-fry all for 2 minutes until fragrant (1).

Next, tip in diced tomatoes and all the pilau spices—cumin, cloves, cardamom, cinnamon, and black pepper (2).

Cook for 4 minutes until the tomatoes have softened and released their juices.

chillies, ginger, garlic, and onions frying in a skillet
chopped tomatoes cooking in a pan with pilau rice spices

Step 3

Now, pour in hot vegetable stock and stir in the soaked rice, after draining it well (1).

Cover, bring to a boil, and simmer the pilau for 20-25 minutes over medium heat (2).

long grain brown rice in a pan with vegetable stock for pilau
kenyan pilau rice cooking in a pan with tomatoes, chillies, and spices

Step 4

The pilau is ready when the rice is cooked through, and the liquids have fully reduced.

Fluff the pilau rice and stir in chopped fresh coriander (cilantro) or parsley (1).

Serve your vegan Kenyan pilau warm, paired with a cucumber side salad and beans if you like (2).

kenyan pilau topped with chopped parsley and coriander
vegan kenyan pilau served with cucumber salad and beans


  • When the pilau is almost ready, you can tip a can of drained black beans or red kidney beans and cook for a few more minutes. Beans add plant-based proteins and extra nutrients for a more balanced meal.

  • Some African pilau recipes also include vegetables like potatoes, carrots, and bell peppers, so add them in if you like.

  • Serve this seasoned rice alongside a bean stew, like this African yellow split pea curry, a fresh salad, like this Nigerian cabbage and egg salad, or vegetable stew, like this Nigerian yam porridge.

  • Pack any leftovers in an air-tight container and store them in the fridge for up to 3 days. To eat, quickly reheat the pilau in a skillet with a dash of oil.